Thai Church Holds Record-Breaking Baptism Despite COVID-19

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Thai Church Holds Record-Breaking Baptism Despite COVID-19

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September 22, 2020 07:00 AM

Things weren’t looking good for the Thai church at the start of 2020. The southeast Asian nation was the first outside China to report a coronavirus case, and analysts feared a long, overwhelming outbreak.

Instead, Thailand is now being praised as one of the only places that was able to effectively contain the pandemic. After a countrywide lockdown in the spring and continued precautions, it celebrated 100 days without a case COVID-19 at the start of September.

Later that week, an evangelical church-planting movement in central Thailand celebrated a milestone of its own—one that wouldn’t be possible without the word of mouth conversations, house gatherings, and in-person testimonies it relies on to spread the gospel.

The Free in Jesus Christ..

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Racial Reconciliation Is Still a Dream for Atlanta Christians

Dhati Lewis set out to start a church that could be a blueprint for urban discipleship, a church “in the city, for the city, that looks like the city.” But first, he needed a city.

A decade ago, he left the college town of Denton, Texas, for Atlanta, an urban hub four times larger. With him came 25 longtime ministry partners, including rappers Lecrae and Sho Baraka and pastor John Onwuchekwa. Together they planted Blueprint Church in the Old Fourth Ward, a story chronicled in a recent documentary, Becoming Blueprint, released in honor of the church’s 10th anniversary.

Lewis’s approach to ministry grew out of the tension he felt between the white evangelical culture that fueled his faith in Denton and the familiar black culture of his upbringing. In Atlanta, though he was a black pastor leading a diverse congregation in a majority-black city, the work of urban church planting was complicated.

For one, the area around his church continued to gentrify. “In this neighborhood, what scare..

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The Kingdom of God and the Supreme Court of the United States

The Kingdom of God and the Supreme Court of the United StatesThoughts on the kingdom of God and the common good.

The phrase, “The Kingdom of God,” has been in the news recently given that Amy Coney Barrett is on President Trump’s short list of nominees to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died last week.

As one can imagine given our tense and toxic political environment, many Democrats are up in arms about the prospect of President Trump nominating a Supreme Court Justice between now and the election on November 3rd. Many of them, including former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, believe that Trump should postpone the nomination until after the election.

Not only are Democrats upset that President Trump may proceed with a nomination, they are uncomfortable with Amy Coney Barrett, the supposed front runner for the nomination.

Why would many Democrats be uncomfortable with Barrett? Aside from being mentored by Antonin Scalia and a proponent of originalism,..

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The Black Church Is Atlanta’s Original Community Organizer

As pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Raphael Warnock said he never felt the pressure to fill the shoes of his famous predecessor, Martin Luther King Jr. But he does “stand on his shoulders.”

Warnock is the fifth and youngest inhabitant of the pulpit of the 134-year-old church, both a National Historic Site and an active Progressive Baptist congregation. Ebenezer Baptist famously was co-pastored by King and his father, Martin Luther King Sr., or “Daddy King,” from 1960 until the civil rights leader’s assassination in 1968.

Though “times are different than they were then, there are many of the same challenges,” Warnock told Christianity Today in the midst of another wave of activism around policing, voting rights, housing, and health care for black Americans. “But we have to rise to [the next] one while finding inspiration in what they’ve done.”

After 15 years at Ebenezer Baptist, Warnock’s present challenge is running for US Senate in Georgia. The issues he hopes ..

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The Best Way to Memorize Scripture Has Little to Do with Learning Words.

I was desperate for encouragement but couldn’t even open my Bible. As my tears fell, the words I could not read welled up inside instead.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . .” (Ps. 139:13–14). Unbidden, my soul remembered its truest story, the story that my present suffering was threatening to smash and scatter into the wind.

A month after I turned 20, my body suddenly became a place of pain rather than possibility. In a matter of days, I could no longer walk because of severe joint pain and inflammation. I sat on my dorm bed, and for a few minutes I tried to uncoil my swollen hands to turn the pages of my Bible, to no avail.

In that suffering, the Word hidden in my heart started countering my fear. I was confused and craving comfort, but God’s story was alive inside of me, welcoming me into the wonder that I am loved at my weakest.

God’s Word became a living part of my memory lon..

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God Himself Gives the Gift

Over the years, one thing that has fascinated me about the gospel is the way it takes our familiar human longings and instincts and transforms their common, sinful manifestations in liberative ways.

Take the almost universal human impulse to sacrifice, for instance. Jewish philosopher Moshe Halbertal notes in On Sacrifice that sacrifice is the “most primary and basic form of all ritual.” In Greco-Roman religion, the principle do ut des (I give that you might give) governed sacrificial ritual: You gave gifts to the gods to put them in your debt so they might bless you—or to appease their wrath on the chance you angered them. In ancient times, sacrifice was the anxious, human end of the bargain.

We may think we’re too modern, enlightened and humane to practice the sacrifices that marked the worship of our ancestors, but a quick scan of our contemporary culture says otherwise. We too have rituals of sacrifice. We put on sacred vestments and sacrifice sweat (and blood, even) at the gym s..

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How Black-Owned Businesses Bless Atlanta

When John Onwuchekwa moved to Atlanta over a decade ago, he came as a church planter. But his call was much broader than that. By starting churches in broken-down neighborhoods, he set out to bring a sense of community and economic opportunity “to the people that look like me.”

“When you start with the church as your cornerstone, you set the direction and the boundaries for everything else to fall into place,” said Onwuchekwa, who leads Cornerstone Church in the Historic West End.

The pastor’s latest venture, launched this year, was not another church, but a coffee business. He and five business partners from Southwest Atlanta founded Portrait Coffee. The roastery and forthcoming café is committed to “pouring a new narrative” for black coffee by recovering the African origins of the product and bringing jobs and development to its neighborhood.

The West End was one of Atlanta’s earliest suburbs, its gingerbread-trimmed residences home to top businessmen and politicians. But as in ma..

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Atlanta Beyond MLK: How Black Christians Continue a Civil Rights Legacy

From my apartment in Midtown Atlanta, I could hear the helicopters above the protesters after the murder of Rayshard Brooks in June. By then, demonstrators had been in the streets for weeks, incensed by the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

In cities across the country, crowds were marching for black lives and praying for racial justice. Yet this national movement took on a different magnitude in Atlanta, a city shaped by the faith, activism, and political prowess of its African American forebears.

Much of the same could be said about black hubs like Detroit, Houston, Harlem, and Washington, DC. But there is a unique echo for justice in Atlanta, where leaders have walked the same streets and stood in the same pulpits as civil rights heroes who came before them. The Southern capital—a dreamed-of “black mecca” and the major metropolitan area with the highest concentration of black Christians in the US—has this history in its bedrock.

As Coretta Scott ..

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Interview: Pursuing Racial Justice Requires More Than Lament, but Never Less

In the wake of the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others, many white evangelical churches have shown renewed interest in matters of racial reconciliation. Some have joined protest marches, hosted conversations with local black pastors, or participated in citywide prayer vigils. But others, unsure how to respond, have taken the path of least resistance. In Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation, Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, argues that recovering the biblical practice of lament can help the church speak where it is tempted toward silence. Kathryn Freeman, a writer and master of divinity student at Baylor University, spoke with Vroegop about his book.

How did it occur to you to bring together the topics of lament and racial justice?

Weep with Me was born out of my first book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. The more I explored lament as a biblical category and as a way for people to naviga..

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Jesus Is Your Lord and Savior. Is He Also Your Philosopher King?

Let me begin with a brief lament. As a Christian philosopher who teaches future ministry leaders and speaks to lay leaders and pastors, I frequently defend the need for philosophy. Allowing for some slight exaggeration, a typical student comment goes like this: “Why do I need to learn logic? Will I ever perform a logical proof in a Bible study?” Whenever I speak, teach, or preach at a church, I find a similar suspicion. Philosophers are viewed as a kind of novelty act: “Look what we found! A philosopher! Let him babble a bit to see if any koans drop out of his mouth.” All too often, the church assumes that Christianity and philosophy mix as well as oil and water.

In every generation, certain books profoundly influence individuals or entire cultures, serving as catalysts for new ideas, enlarged possibilities, and fresh perspectives on ancient truths. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, for example, claimed that reading David Hume awakened him from a dogmatic slumber. I hope th..

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